The Global Convergence Forum (GCF), first started last December with about 22 members from different academic and industrial fields, had their sixth meeting on March 17.
This time the forum was held in Daejeon with Liu Jang-ryol, Director, Division of Biological Resource Management at Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB), explaining 'the business possibilities of convergence technology development project for vertical farming' and Yoo Catherine, CEO of Biz Holdings, presenting 'the joint venture project between Korea and Malaysia to build an industrial complex within Malaysia's Cyberjaya.'
Vertical Farm - alternative for the future
"Although Korea has some of the best breeding and cultivation technologies in the world, more and more industrial farmers are leaving their farms. Korea has achieved enormous development through economies of scale mainly led by conglomerates; and I believe the same could happen in agriculture once the big corporations start paying attention to the industry," says Dr. Liu Jang-ryol. "What, then, is the kind of agriculture that those corporations will be interested in The answer is vertical farm."
First proposed by the American ecologist Dickson Despommier, vertical farm refers to the cultivation method that grows crops in an artificial environment. It can be applied to almost all kinds of plants; allows the space to be used for leisure or tourist purposes; and also enables year-round production.
Dr. Liu argues, "In terms of energy, water, and environmental conservation, Korea can become more competitive with vertical farming as part of the green growth and environmentally-friendly development agenda." In fact, vertical farms have on average 10 to 12 times higher productivity - a building of approximately 99 m², or of a total of 13,223 m², can produce food for around 50,000 people, virtually making it a food base for the community.
One crucial advantage of this technology is in its optimized use of water. By reusing the water based on plants' transpiration, Dr. Liu explains, not a single drop of water is wasted within vertical farms. He adds that it will consequently reduce the necessity of reservoir construction as well.
Furthermore, vertical farming does not produce any harmful gas since it recovers methane from hydroponics buildings and then the energy is reused. Reduced logistics costs is another merit, and the buildings can also become a landmark of the city used for education and tourism, which explains why vertical farms are often cited as an alternative architecture for the future.
The shortage of agricultural land is pushing Korea to take immediate measures for the country's agricultural industry. With the technological and economic competence, Korea indeed has outstanding conditions to build vertical farms and this new technology can become a driving force for the country's agriculture.
Synergy from Korea's technology and Malaysia's capital
As a self-proclaimed hub of Northeast Asia, what should be the next step for South Korea to take in order to enhance its global standing According to Yoo Catherine, CEO of Biz Holdings, the answer is to target the Islam market by setting up a joint venture using the technologies of small and medium businesses in Korea and the capital power of Malaysia.
"Malaysia is a multi-religious country that embraces Islam, Buddhism and Christianity, which results in a broad range of culture. Cultural diversity leads to synergy in many ways, and we believe this country could become our strategic center," says Ms. Yoo.
Cyberjaya is a well-known tourist attraction in Malaysia. Ri-City, in particular, is the place where Ms. Yoo is planning to build an industrial complex where innovative and creative ideas from Korean companies will be introduced.
Producing about 30,000 graduates from six colleges every year, Cyberjaya is also known for its high-quality of life with political stability as well as a rich labor force equipped with diverse culture and multilingualism. In addition, as Ms. Yoo explains, the area is very accessible thanks to the smooth traffic.
Ms. Yoo's ultimate goal is to export Korean culture after discovering small and medium businesses with highly competitive technology and then placing them in the industrial complex within Ri-City, a city full of potential and possibilities. Amidst these efforts she is making, Ms. Yoo is planning to open the RABIT Forum in the coming April with the help of the Malaysian Embassy.